Sundresses and bikinis might be your first thought when packing for Costa Rica, but there are lots of other things you should pack that you might not think of. Costa Rica is filled with over 300 micro climates, which means tons of different weather! As someone that lives in Costa Rica and has traveled extensively throughout the country, here’s the ultimate Costa Rica packing guide.
Bathing Suits: For sure pack a few bathing suits. I’d suggest at least two. Costa Rica is sandwiched between the Pacific coast and the Caribbean coast. There are countless beautiful beaches and you’ll definitely want to soak up the sun. I like to bring one two-piece for tanning and one one-piece for water adventure sports. Just remember that you are really close to the Equater here and the sun tends to be strong, strong, strong!
Beach Cover Up: If you’re planning on spending most of your trip beach hopping it is always a good idea to have a nice cover up to throw on for walking along the beach or for going to grab lunch.
Short Sleeve Shirts or Tank Tops: Bring some shirts that are versatile but not too showy. I like ones that I can pair with shorts, pants, or a skirt. I would also suggest not wearing anything too low cut or crop tops. Costa Rica is not really a conservative country, but as a tourist you will definitely get more attention and I ppersonally like to keep that attention to a minimum by not standing out too much.
Long Sleeve Shirt: I would bring at least one or two long sleeve shirts. I’m a big fan of flannel shirts that I can easily put on over a T-shirt and leave unbuttoned if I want. In the rainforest and mountains it can be really cool even during the day.
Shorts or Skirts: Costa Rica can also be HOT! Definitely bring some shorts and skirts, but I would stay away from anything that is TOO short. Costa Rica is safe, but there are robberies and tourists are definitely targeted so as I said before, don’t draw too much attention to yourself. I’d also suggest at least one pair of moveable shorts. This country is made for adventures, and you’ll definitely want some sport shorts to do them in.
Pants: I suggest bringing at least one pair of pants. During the day it is hot, but it can cool off quickly in the evening. If you are planning on hiking in the rainforest or mountains it’s nice to have some comfortable moveable pants.
Dresses: I’m a big fan of lightweight dresses that can roll up small for my suitcase. As I said before, it’s best not to stand out. I suggest something a bit conservative.
Rain Jacket: During the rainy season it rains almost everyday here. A lightweight rain jacket for your adventures would be useful.
Hat: The sun can get really hot and I highly recommend having a hat. Right now wide brimmed hats are really in style, but if you go that route just remember you have to fit it in your suitcase somehow.
Socks: Bring a few more pairs of socks than days you are planning on staying. Things have a tendancy of getting wet here and never drying.
Underwear: I’m such a huge fan of Ex Officio underwear. They are easy to wash, dry quickly, and stay dry. Basically they are amazing.
Don’t forget to also bring something to sleep in! Most hotels have fans or air conditioning, but not heating. If you are in a place where it gets cold at night you may want to bundle up in something warm.
If you need to get your clothes washed there are laundromats located all over the country. They are not always the cheap it and might not get your clothes as clean as you’re used to, but if you run out of clothes to wear, they are fine.
Flip flops: I’d bring one pair of flip flops for the beach, but not more.
Birkenstocks: I love the Yara Birkenstocks for normal day walking. They are not exactly cheap, but I think they are worth the investment. The sidewalks and roads are not always in the best condition here and I wouldn’t walk around in flip flops. I like these because they are fashionable yet also secure on my feet. Plus they are crazy comfy!
Hiking Shoes: Chacos are great for when you are doing more adventure type activities. They are breathable and offer great support. If you prefer something that is not open, I’d bring some hiking boots.
Everyday Shoes: I’m a big fan of Tom’s. They are easy to squish into your suitcase and you can wear them with everything! In the evening when it gets buggy I always slip on some shoes.
Sunglasses: Well, with the strong sun you’ll definitely want sunglasses, especially on the beach.
Sunscreen: You have to consider that Costa Rica is really close to the equator. That means the sun is really strong. I recommend having at least 50 SPF lotion. That may seem really strong to you, but trust me, you’ll be thankful.
Bug Spray: Of course you can buy bug spray here, but expect to pay a lot more than you would in other countries. That stuff is expensive! Now with the threat of Zika you really need to bug spray it up. In the rainforest areas you will likely need it all day. In the city and on the beaches the bugs usually only get bad in the evenings.
Beach Towel: Most hotels will provide you with a towel but specify that you are not allowed to bring them on the beach. I suggest bringing something that can also double as a blanket.
Waterproof Bag: If you are spending time near the beach or in the rainforest you’re definitely going to want a waterproof bag. I’ve had more than one occasion where I was happily sitting on the beach and the water came up extremely high out of nowhere. Luckily I moved faster than I ever have before and got my stuff out of the way. In the rainforest, heavy rains can come out of nowhere.
Money Belt: Money belts are a great way to keep your cash hidden. As I said before, Costa Rica is fairly safe, but you could still be targeted as a tourist and it’s best to keep your valuables hidden.
Umbrella: If you’re walking around in the city or towns you might want an umbrella. Sometimes the rain is so heavy that a raincoat is just not enough.
Snorkel: If you are spending most of your time at the beach, goggles and a breathing tube will be so useful to you. In most areas the water is so clear that you can swim and see some beautiful fish along the way.
Portable Phone Charger: Usually the power is pretty good here and you can use your regular charger (Costa Rica had the same type of outlets as the US) but during rain storms the power sometimes goes out. If you are somebody that always needs your phone I would suggest having a portable charger.
Spanish Dictionary: In the touristy areas you will be able to find someone that speaks English, but if something happens while you’re driving through the little villages you are going to need to communicate in Spanish.
Map: If you are renting a car I highly recommend getting a GPS. Seriously, spend the extra money and get one. The roads are crazy here and it can be impossible to find signs sometimes. If for whatever reason you do not get a GPS, definitely invest in a detailed map. I like this one because it is waterproof. If you have a cell phone that you are able to use here I recommend downloading the app Waze. It is the best option here in Costa Rica.
Filter Water Bottle: In most places in the country it is fine to drink the water from the sink, but you never know. I prefer to be on the safe side and use a water bottle with a built-in filter.
First Aid Kit: When you are in the rainforest it can be pretty remote. Always have a first aid kit in case something happens. They are fairly cheap and totally worth the investment.
Camera: Costa Rica is beautiful and you’ll definitely want to take lots of pictures. I take most pictures with my phone, but for adventure activities (which are plentiful here) I highly recommend having a GoPro.
-Definitely copy your passport before coming to Costa Rica and store it in a separate place. I also suggest emailing a copy to yourself. If on the off chance your passport is stolen, you really need a backup.
-If you want to stay connected with your cell phone you can check what the rates would be from your regular cell phone provider. The other option is to get a SIM card at the airport in San Jose. There is a stand for the phone provider Kolbi and it is extremely cheap. You can get a prepaid card and will likely pay no more than $5 to make calls for your whole trip. Just note that this won’t be possible with an iPhone unless it is unlocked.
-I would strongly suggest not bringing anything overly flashy with you. Leave jewelry and expensive purses at home. You don’t NEED them and I would always air on the side of caution here.
-If you would like to read a travel guide before you go I highly suggest this book. It is awesome! It’s filled with such great info including history and wildlife from someone that actually extensively traveled and lived in Costa Rica. I refer to it before I travel anywhere new within the country.
If you have any questions on your trip to Costa Rica please leave them in the comment section below and I’ll help you out. 🙂
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